GOP leaders say they’re stunned Young might not make Senate ballot

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The Indiana Election Commission is expected next Friday to take up the issue of whether Republican U.S. Senate candidate Todd Young, a sitting congressman, garnered enough signatures to qualify for the race—a charge leveled by Democrats who say he filed fewer than the 500 signatures he needed in one of the state’s congressional districts.

U.S. Senate candidates—as well as people running for governor and president—are required to collect at least 500 signatures from registered voters in each of Indiana’s nine districts to be on the ballot. But The Indiana Democratic Party filed a formal petition with the Indiana Election Division Wednesday, saying Young had just 498 signatures from the 1st District that met the state’s guidelines. And Young’s campaign has accused Democrats of “blatantly political gamesmanship.”

The charge has surprised legislative leaders, who say the candidate may have cut it too close. A state report showed Young listing 501 signatures in the district, which is in Northwest Indiana and is heavily Democratic.

“There are requirements in statute that need to be met,” said House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis. “If they aren’t met and there’s not some reason to waive them, they need to be complied with. I don’t know that one particular candidate should get an exemption from them."

Senate President Pro Tem David Long, R-Fort Wayne, said to reporters Thursday that if true, “it’s one of the most colossal mistakes I’ve ever seen."

House Minority Leader Scott Pelath, D-Michigan City, said “498 is not 500.”

“It is a reasonable law,” Pelath said. “If somebody is going to run for U.S. Senate, you need to have your act together. If they’re going to keep him on the ballot, I’m eager to hear the explanation."

Indiana Election Division attorney Dale Simmons confirmed the matter would be on the agenda at the Indiana Election Commission’s Feb. 19 meeting. There will be an individual hearing on each challenge, and both sides will be able to present evidence before the four-member commission takes a vote. There are two Democrats and two Republicans on the commission.

Simmons said it takes a vote of three members to make an official determination. He said in the past, if there is a tie, the primary candidate has remained on the ballot. 

Young is facing U.S. Rep. Marlin Stutzman in the Republican primary for retiring Republican U.S. Sen. Dan Coats’ seat. Another candidate, Eric Holcomb, dropped out of the race shortly before Gov. Mike Pence named him as his new lieutenant governor choice and running mate. Baron Hill is the lone candidate in the Democratic primary.

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